There will be presidential elections in Russia in March 2018. EU and USA do not considered Crimea as part of Russia, however citizens of that region (around 2 million people) will take part in that vote. Does it mean that the EU and USA can't legally consider those elections legitimate?

  • 3
    You can always look at the results and then figure out whether the Crimean voters would have made a difference in the result. This is based on statistics and probability theory from mathematics.
    – jjack
    Dec 26, 2017 at 12:13
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    Even without the Crimean factor, would they be regarded as legitimate?
    – Golden Cuy
    Dec 26, 2017 at 23:04
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    What does it matter if the EU or USA considers Russian elections to be legitimate? And do they consider Russian Presidential elections to be legitimate even without this concern?
    – reirab
    Dec 27, 2017 at 5:23
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    So astounding rate of vote falsification is no big deal, but adding in Crimean votes suddenly makes elections illegitimate? Dec 27, 2017 at 7:00
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    I think the fact that Putin can disallow his opponent from running is enough for outsiders to consider them illegitimate.
    – Andy
    Dec 27, 2017 at 21:01

3 Answers 3


First of all, there's a difference between recognizing that Crimea is a Russian territory and recognizing that Crimean residents are Russian citizens. Taking up the Russian citizenship was voluntary and the EU or the US cannot dictate whether or not a given person can become a Russian citizen by choice. There are still hundreds of thousands of dual Ukrainian-Russian citizens in Crimea and thousands others who refused to become a Russian citizen in the first place. Likewise international organizations cannot object to countries giving out their citizenship to residents of a certain territory, like in the case of Austria giving out their passports to residents of South Tyrol.

Second, there are even countries where non-citizens are eligible to vote for Parliament. E.g. in the UK you can participate in the general election (or stand as a candidate) if:

To vote at the UK general election you must be registered to vote and:

  • be a British, Irish or qualifying Commonwealth citizen

And I haven't heard of anyone contesting the validity of British elections...

So to answer your question: no, Russian elections of any kind do not become illegitimate simply because Crimean residents can participate in them.

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    "And I haven't heard of anyone contesting the validity of British elections..." - Ahem. Everyone on "remain" side seems to be that "anyone" :)
    – user4012
    Dec 26, 2017 at 14:11
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    @jjack Crimeans can still vote in Ukrainian elections Dec 26, 2017 at 14:14
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    @jjack you travel to Ukraine and vote there. Dec 26, 2017 at 15:11
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    @user4012 Smiley noted but it's not remotely true that every remain voter believes the Brexit referendum was invalid. Dec 26, 2017 at 22:48
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    @user4012 and that was not an election, it was a referendum
    – Tim
    Dec 27, 2017 at 0:57

You are asking a loaded question because I can predict what the outcome is.

If Russia denies the Crimeans to vote, then the EU/USA will vilify Russia because it suppresses the opinion of the Crimeans and it shows that Russia is afraid of a vote which will show that the Crimeans do not want to be ruled by Russia.

If Russia allows the Crimeans to vote, then the EU/USA will vilify Russia because it shows that Russia still legitimates the brutal annexion of Crimea and (as you imply) that the presidential election is doubtful/invalid. No word over the opinion of Crimeans anymore.

Either way, the Russians are the bad boys.

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    I believe the technical politology term is "Catch-22" :)
    – user4012
    Dec 26, 2017 at 17:14
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    I think this is a good answer, except for the last sentence. After all, the Russians may still turn out to be the bad boys when weighing all the evidence.
    – jjack
    Dec 26, 2017 at 20:46
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    @DavidRicherby The facts are irrelevant, it is about the framing. How to represent a country, a person, an issue. If you are a candidate for a political seat, it is completely irrelevant that you stole candy as a small child. But your political opponent will tell everyone that you stole candy (!!!!) and from then on it's only a small step to murder and arson. But if you did not steal candy, you are a boring paragon of virtue without charisma. Small-minded. Insufferable i-dotter and t-crosser. Whatever the situation is, it is always presented against you. Heads I win, tails you lose. Dec 26, 2017 at 23:11
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    I rolled back the latest edit to this answer. Please note that this is a question&answer website. We expect answers to answer the question, nothing more and nothing less. The latest edit was adding a very long tangent which wasn't doing that.
    – Philipp
    Dec 28, 2017 at 0:48
  • @Shadur I think the point that is being made (and was more clear before the most recent edit stripped much of that context), is that it doesn't necessarily matter if Russia is being bad or not. It /will/ be framed as them being bad, even if the act in question is something done (and still defended by) the side accusing them of being bad. Dec 28, 2017 at 20:37

Short version: neither the US or the EU rule the world.

Long version: Legitimate is either an internal legal question, or an external political statement.

Internally, it only matters if there is also an internal mechanism for enforcing the law.

Externally, calling another government non-legitimate is part of the process of either putting pressure on that government or providing support to a competing authority. It gives the external government justification for it's actions.

I doubt any polity has laws requiring them to take specific actions when they declare another government non-legitimate or specific processes they are required to perform for all other governments to determine their legitimacy.

While not a lawyer, I think I would have heard of a law requiring the US to determine the legitimacy of every other nation on the planet.

Basically I believe they (US and EU) can "legally" recognize anyone that they want to as the legitimate government, practically this recognition is typically given to the forces in physical control of an area. Occasionally, they recognize someone else or no one for mostly internal political reasons. For example, the US recognized Taiwan as the sole, legitimate government of China... until recognizing the PRC was more valuable in the Cold War.

  • Legitimate would be someone elected by democratic elections. But what makes elections democratic could be contestable.
    – jjack
    Dec 27, 2017 at 10:57
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    @jjack There are far more sources of legitimacy than democracy. Dec 27, 2017 at 16:57
  • @JoseAntonioDuraOlmos Can you name a few?
    – jjack
    Dec 27, 2017 at 17:20
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    @jjack Legitimacy (political) Dec 27, 2017 at 17:28
  • @JoseAntonioDuraOlmos Looks like some people still break their head about legitimacy. "To posit" means "to propose", and I don't go with the proposition.
    – jjack
    Dec 27, 2017 at 17:45

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